The latest bureaucratic nightmare to affect universities is Right to Work checks. The covering letter for these regulations asserts the following:
Right to Work checks now need to be done for any visitor (in advance to their visit) to the University, regardless whether we are paying them fees or expenses or they are self-funded.
Taken literally (and how else can you take government-imposed regulations?) the regulations mean that anyone wishing to attend (for example) a public lecture at the university must send in their passport in advance (the original, not a copy!) so that a Right to Work check can be carried out and the appropriate paperwork filled in.
It is absolutely unclear now to what extent these regulations will be enforced. What is already clear is that universities are likely to place different interpretations on the rules.
I suspect that in practice they will be watered down in two ways:
- I do not believe that anyone is going to send their passport along in advance of their attendance at a lecture or seminar. Presumably, after a while, it will be admitted that it is OK if they bring it along and we take a copy.
- The sanction which will be imposed on us for not filling out the forms correctly is that fees and expenses will not be paid by the university. They seem to have no sanctions in the case of someone who is not being paid. So I suppose such people will slip under the net.
The people who drafted these regulations appear to have no conception of how much damage their full implementation would to to teaching and learning, the core business of universities. But, as usual, we will all just bend over and take our punishment.
If you happen to be passing by and want to drop in to see me, and possibly talk about mathematics, rest assured that I will not demand your passport. If necessary, we will leave the University premises and sit in a coffee shop (or by the sea if the weather is nice), or walk along the West Sands. Our discussion will perhaps be impaired by the absence of a blackboard, but we will have to put up with that. Moreover, if you need some travel money, and are not too embarrassed to ask for it, I will pay you out of my own pocket. I cannot give an assurance that I will never fill in their stupid form, but as far as I can I will avoid it.
And finally, of course, I am not encouraging anyone to follow my practice. That would presumably count as incitement to commit a crime …